Season preview: Albany SR PG Evan Singletary

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Some transfer players take a long time to adjust to their new school, but Evan Singletary is more of an “instant impact” kind of guy.  After transferring to Albany last year he started all 33 games at PG, was a finalist for the Riley Wallace Award (which goes to the nation’s top D-1 transfer), and was named to the America East All-Conference 1st-Team.  He was also among the best players in the conference in FT% and 3PM.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Evan about his daughter Aubree, and we hope that he had a great 21st birthday last weekend!

evan

You have a daughter named Aubree: what impact has she had on your life either on or off the court? She has a big impact on my life: once I had her, everything that I now do is for her. I have to make smart decisions to give her a good future.

You play for Coach Will Brown: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you have ever learned from him? When I 1st got here he told me to not be afraid to step on anyone’s toes and just play my game. We have very good communication: once he told me to stop looking towards him on every possession and to just play I became more comfortable in the system.

Last year you started all 33 games at PG and ranked among the conference leaders in PPG/APG: how do you balance your scoring with your passing? A PG needs to score while also getting his teammates involved, and that is my job: I do not like to be selfish.

You were also #4 in the conference with 80.9 FT% and led the team with 61 3PM: what is the key to being a good shooter? I shoot the same way every time and put my legs into it.

You finished the year by being named to the America East All-Conference 1st-Team: what did it mean to you to receive such an outstanding honor? It meant a lot to me. Ray Sanders and I worked out in the preseason every day and we told each other that we wanted to be named All-Conference and win a title. My teammates also had a lot to do with that.

In the 2015 America East tourney title game you scored 11 PTS and Peter Hooley made a 3-PT shot from the top of the key with 1.6 seconds left in a 1-PT win over Stony Brook: did you think the shot was going in, and what was the reaction like after the buzzer sounded? It was crazy. I was watching from the bench after fouling out but the shot looked good when it left his hand. I jumped into my teammate’s arms and then ran onto the court with everyone else.

In the 2015 NCAA tourney you scored 13 PTS in a 9-PT loss to Oklahoma: what did you learn from that loss that you think can help you this year? We learned a lot. I learned that you have to play hard no matter what stage you are on or who your opponent is. It came down to offensive rebounding and the Soooners were a little tougher than us.

Your leading scorer from last year (Sam Rowley) has graduated: how much pressure is there on you as a senior to be 1 of the leaders this year? I do not think there is any pressure. Sam was a big piece of our team last year and his loss will hurt us, but we still have Peter Hooley. I need to be more vocal and be more of a leader myself.

Your very 1st game of the year is in Lexington: how are you preparing to face the Wildcats? We are going out and competing every day in practice. It will be tough but we will just listen to our coaches and try to win the game.

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? Our team goals are to definitely win another ring, get to the NCAA tourney, and then win a couple of games. I do not have any individual goals at the moment.

Season preview: Albany SR SF Ray Sanders

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Ray Sanders knows how to get around: he spent his 1st year of college at Tulane, then transferred to Pensacola State, and is now at Albany.  The 3rd time appears to be the charm, as he started all 33 games last year, lead the team with 45 STL, and was named to the America East All-Defensive Team.  He finished the year in the NCAA tourney thanks to a clutch shot by teammate Peter Hooley, and will try to make it back there this year.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Ray about starting his career in Tulane and starting the upcoming season in Lexington. 

sanders

You began your college career at Tulane: why did you decide to transfer, and what made you choose Albany? After I came into Tulane the assistant coach who recruited me went to another school, so I felt that it would be better for me to move on. I did a year of junior college in Florida and then built a relationship with Albany.

You play for Coach Will Brown: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you have ever learned from him? His character is what attracts players to him. He is a great guy to be around and is funny.

Last year you started all 33 games: how were you able to come in and contribute right from the start? I just listened and paid attention to the veterans like Sam Rowley/Peter Hooley. I also tried to display my talent to get some playing time and be the best that I could be.

You led the team with 45 STL: what is the secret to being a good defender? It takes a lot of things. You have to be hungry and have the attitude that nobody will score on you no matter what. I take it very personally when I am on the court.

You finished the year by being named to the America East All-Defensive Team: what did it mean to you to receive such an outstanding honor? It meant a lot that the conference showed me some attention because most guys only get credit for their work on the offensive end. I have to guard Evan Singletary every day in practice so he pushes me to be the best defender that I can be.

In the 2015 America East tourney title game you scored 8 PTS and Peter Hooley made a 3-PT shot from the top of the key with 1.6 seconds left in a 1-PT win over Stony Brook: did you think the shot was going in, and what was the reaction like after the buzzer sounded? I did not know if we were down by 2 or 3 PTS but when I saw Peter let it go I assumed that it was going in. I went crazy and did not know what to do because I thought it was a tie game. Coach Brown gave me a big hug and then I celebrated with my teammates.

In the 2015 NCAA tourney you scored 11 PTS in a 9-PT loss to Oklahoma: what did you learn from that loss that you think can help you this year? As a group we have to rebound better and come together as a team better on defense. We had a chance late in that game but it came down to a possession or 2 that did not go our way. The Sooners played more physical than us in the post but it was 2 great teams battling each other.

Your leading scorer from last year (Sam Rowley) has graduated: how much pressure is there on you as a senior to be 1 of the leaders this year? I do not think there is much pressure because I have a year under my belt. My mindset is to just pick up where I left off and hopefully be more productive. I love the game too much to make it about myself so I will give it my all and try to help us win games.

Your very 1st game of the year is in Lexington: how are you preparing to face the Wildcats? We will go in there with our heads held high and not lacking any confidence. We are hungry and we want to be the best and head back to the NCAA tourney.

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? I really want to win another championship and make a deep run in March. It is my last year so I will give it all of my blood/sweat/tears and then live with the results.

Season preview: Louisiana Tech coach Eric Konkol

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Most of the hype surrounding the new guys in college basketball is on the incoming McDonald’s All-Americans such as Allonzo Trier/Ivan Rabb.  However, we should also pay some serious attention to the new coaches, 1 of whom is former Miami assistant coach and current Louisiana Tech head coach Eric Konkol.  He was hired after former Bulldog coach Michael White was hired to replace Billy Donovan as head coach at Florida.  His coaching tree is quite impressive, as he played for Bo Ryan and worked for Jim Larranaga/Buzz Peterson.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Coach Konkol about making FTs and how he will deal with the loss of 4 of Louisiana Tech’s top-6 scorers from last season.

konkol

You began your college basketball career at Wisconsin–Platteville playing for Coach Bo Ryan: could you have ever imagined at the time that he would end up in the 2015 title game with Wisconsin? I was very fortunate to spend time in Coach Ryan’s program and always thought that he would continue to get the most out of his teams no matter where he was coaching. I cannot say that I imagined him being in the title game with Wisconsin when I played for him 20 years ago, but I am not surprised that he has been so successful because he is such a tremendous coach.

After transferring to Wisconsin–Eau Claire you made it all the way to the D-3 title game in 2000: how good a player were you back in the day, and how close did you come to winning the title? We were very close: we lost 79-74 to Calvin College from Michigan. It was an incredible game: we were down by 16 PTS at halftime and almost came all the way back. We had a talented team and I was a backup guard. I have so many great memories of that season.

You were a career 89.7% FT shooter: what is your secret for making FTs? I think that repetition and routine are the keys to making free throws. I felt very comfortable at the line after shooting so many of them in my driveway while growing up. It is so important to see the ball go into the basket over and over to build your confidence.

In the 2001 NIT as a student assistant for Buzz Peterson at Tulsa you had 4 single-digit wins before beating Alabama by 13 in the title game: what did it mean to you to win a title? That was a special group. We had a young team that really grew throughout the year. We lost in the conference tournament championship game and then pulled everything together in the NIT. I remember feeling very fortunate to be cutting down the net in Madison Square Garden during my 1st year out of college.

You worked as an assistant to Jim Larranaga at both George Mason and Miami: what makes him such a great coach, and what is the most important thing that you have ever learned from him? Coach Larranaga is an incredible communicator: he is able to get the team on the same page and motivate each member of the program. I learned that no detail is too small and doing the little things well is what makes a program successful.

You worked as the offensive coordinator for the Hurricanes: what kind of offense have you found to be the most effective, and why? The best offense is generated from good defense. We hope to create turnovers at Louisiana Tech and score before our opponent’s defense can get set. In the half court I really like to use pick-and-roll basketball. Players are really good at attacking with the dribble in today’s game and I have found that spreading the floor and giving them that opportunity works well.

In the 2015 NIT title game you had a 2-PT OT loss to Stanford: where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career? It is right up there, but I am very proud of that team. We fought through a lot of adversity and were very close to winning the championship. It was a great game and a wonderful experience to be in New York that week.

In May you were hired to replace Mike White as head coach at Louisiana Tech: what have you found to be the biggest difference in being a head coach vs. being an assistant coach? I think the biggest difference is that there are so many things to spend time on that managing that time becomes so important. We have so much that we want to do with our players, with recruiting, and with the community. I am fortunate to have some very talented assistant coaches at Louisiana Tech who have been so helpful.

Your team lost 4 of its top-6 scorers from last year: how will you try to replace all of that offense? We have our 2nd and 3rd leading scorers back in addition to several players who are looking to expand their roles from the year before. We would like a balanced attack so we need some other players to elevate their scoring.

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? Keep improving every day: that is my top goal and expectation. We have 2 starters back and a lot of new young players. Our focus is to keep getting stronger and more cohesive as a group so that we can be at our best in March.

Season preview: St. Mary’s assistant coach Marty Clarke

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After a few decades of foreign players coming to America to prove themselves on the college basketball court, the next logical step is for foreign coaches to come to America to showcase their own skills.  St. Mary’s has a proud tradition of Australian basketball players who have gone on to gain fame in the NBA (including Patty Mills/Matthew Dellavedova), and Marty Clarke is entering his 3rd season with the Gaels as an assistant coach.  He has spent most of the past 3 decades in Australia as a player (including the 1987 Junior World Championships) and coach (including the 2012 Olympics), and will now try to help St. Mary’s get back to the postseason for the 9th straight year.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Marty about why he moved to America and why half of his roster did so as well.

marty

You grew up in Australia: how did you 1st get into basketball? I lived in a very small town that eventually built a new indoor facility. I mostly got into the sport through school, but I was 1 of the few that kept playing it because our region is dominated by Australian Rules football.

In the 1987 FIBA U-19 World Championship you scored 2 PTS in a 4-PT loss to team USA: which of the Americans impressed you the most (Larry Johnson/Gary Payton/Lionel Simmons/other)? That knocked us out of the medal round. The whole US squad was good (Stacey Augmon/Stevie Thompson/Scott Pritchard/etc.) but we had no idea who any of them were because it was before the Internet! I think that 11 of them went on to play pro ball, but the Yugoslavian team was even better (Toni Kukoc/Vlade Divac/Dino Radja/etc.).

You spent almost 3 decades as a player and coach in Australia: who is the best Australian basketball player that you have ever seen? Andrew Gaze/Andrew Bogut rank pretty high and Patty Mills would also have to be on that list. Ian Davies was a great scorer in international competition who actually grew up in Iowa, and there is a whole crop of young guys coming through now like Dante Exum/Matthew Dellavedova.

Why did you eventually decide to come to America in 2013, and how did you end up at St. Mary’s? Coaching basketball in Australia is a limited profession due to the lack of full-time opportunities. Most of the jobs are administrative or just individual skill instruction, but I like the challenge of constructing a team and engaging in the thrill of competition. St. Mary’s is a school that had a lot of Australian players so I had a pretty good idea of what it would be like. It is unfortunate that every time you turn on the TV it seems like there is something dangerous going on in America, but the psyche in California is very relaxed and this program has a long tradition of winning.

You work for Coach Randy Bennett: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you have ever learned from him? His greatest strength is his competitiveness even though he is regularly the underdog. We have as good a team camaraderie as anyone in the country, which is a strong Australian value as well. He gets the most out of his talent and blends the pieces together extremely well. He is very well-prepared but does not try to complicate issues in terms of how he delivers his information.

In the 2015 NIT you lost to Vanderbilt: what did your team learn from that game that you think will help them this year? We were disappointed with the way the season ended because I thought we were good enough to advance but we did not play well enough against a young Vandy team who should be good for the next couple of years. We will be extremely young this year ourselves so we have to make it easy and keep the message clear. It is already a complex game as it is, so it does not help to make it any more complex.

You lost each of your top-4 scorers from last year: how will you try to replace all of that offense? That is what happens most years at many schools, but people always step up. We have Joe Rahon eligible after transferring in from BC, but replacing Brad Waldow immediately will be tough. Calvin Hermanson broke Kevin Love’s scoring record in Oregon and now he will get opportunities to do that for us.

You do not have a single senior on the roster: do you feel that this is a rebuilding year or do you really believe that you can contend for a conference title this season? Joe is an outstanding leader even as a junior. We have had senior-laden teams do well the past 2 years, but this year we are deep and talented due to our international influence. Those guys have been playing against men on the international circuit, which is different than facing high school players, so we expect to be successful.

6 of the 12 players on your roster are from Australia: how has the school able to create such a pipeline of talent? They brought over some guys early who they treated very well, and those players went back with good stories to tell. Kids can see that there is a genuine path to development and everyone enjoys the community here because it is kind of like Australia. There is a small campus so everyone knows everyone else and the climate is similar, so all the guys enjoy their college experience.

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? The goal is always to win your league and make the NCAA tourney, which we certainly expect to do. We want to do well in non-conference play and then punch our ticket to the tourney. If you expect anything less than that, you will probably get less than that. It is not a rebuilding year but rather a competition year.

Season preview: Utah SR SF Jordan Loveridge

For all of Jon’s other Season Preview Interviews – CLICK HERE

Over the past decade BYU has established a virtual pipeline by bringing in the best high school basketball players in the state of Utah, from Tyler Haws to Kyle Collinsworth to Nick Emery.  However, the Utes were able to clog the pipe a few years ago by signing 2012 Utah Mr. Basketball Jordan Loveridge, who showed his versatility immediately by finishing in the top-10 in the Pac-12 in both rebounding and 3-PT shooting as a freshman.  He made the NIT as a sophomore, made the Sweet 16 as a junior, so we shall what he does for an encore as a senior.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Jordan about the BYU-Utah rivalry and a rematch with the defending champs. 

jordan

You play for Coach Larry Krystkowiak: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you have ever learned from him? He is so personable with the guys: he treats us like his own kids from day 1. I know that I can trust what he is saying to us. He taught me that playing hard will solve a lot of problems: it takes care of a lot of things on the court.

You had 18 PTS/10 REB in your freshman debut: how were you able to make such a smooth transition from high school to college? You never know what to expect as a freshman, so I just tried to play hard and the ball bounced my way that night.

Last year your 57.1 PPG allowed was #8 in the nation: what is the key to playing great defense? We just had the right mindset: Coach K will play the guys who want to play defense.

In the 2015 Pac-12 tourney Joseph Young scored 25 PTS including a long 3-PT shot with 1.1 seconds left in a 3-PT win by Oregon: did you think the shot was going in, and where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career? Anytime a great player like that gets a shot in rhythm it is a 50-50 situation. It was tough at 1st after we had made our way back into the game, so it was pretty devastating.

In the 2015 NCAA tourney you scored 5 PTS in a 6-PT loss to eventual champion Duke: did you get the sense that they were good enough to win the title, and what did you learn from that game that you think can help you this year? When you get to the Sweet 16 any team can get the right matchup and win a few games, so we knew that they were good enough to make some things happen. When you play a team like that, every single possession and every little thing matters.

Your non-conference schedule includes games against San Diego State/Texas Tech/Wichita State/Duke: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? Every game is tough no matter who we play, but a game that is receiving a lot of attention is the Duke game at Madison Square Garden, which will help us see where we are at.

For people who have never attended the big in-state rivalry in person, how intense are your games against BYU? It is really intense, but more so for the fans because there are not a lot of guys on our team who went to high school in-state.

Last fall you hurt your knee and missed several games: how bad was it, and how is your health at the moment? It was something that I have been dealing with since high school.  We just had to clean up some loose cartilage, and I have not had any problems since then.

You return 4 starters from last year: how crucial is all of that experience going to be to your team’s success? I think it will be very crucial. Even during summer workouts you could see the returning guys showing the new guys how to succeed within our program.

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? I just want to win as many games as we can, get back to the NCAA tourney, and hopefully make another good run.

Season preview: Utah SR PG Brandon Taylor

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Some players are known for doing 1 thing better than anyone else, but Brandon Taylor seems to do a new amazing thing every year.  As a freshman in 2013 he finished 2nd in the Pac-12 with 42 3P%.  In 2014 he was a member of the Pac-12 All-Academic 1st-Team while helping his team get to the NIT.  Last year as a junior he was named 2nd-team All-Pac-12 and helped the Utes reach the Sweet 16 for the 1st time in a decade.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Brandon about ending Wichita State’s winning streak and playing on 1 of the best defenses in the nation.

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You play for Coach Larry Krystkowiak: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you have ever learned from him? He has a unique style of coaching. He holds his players accountable for their actions and puts everyone in positions to be successful. Shooters on our team are given the green light to shoot, which teaches us to be disciplined.

As a true freshman you ranked #2 in the Pac-12 with 42 3P%: how were you able to come in and contribute right from the start? I actually sat out the 1st 14 games and learned to adapt to the fast pace of the college game. Even after I started playing I was still learning, but Coach had the confidence that I could play as a freshman so I just put everything I learned into the game.

Last December you scored a game-high 17 PTS in a 1-PT OT win over Wichita State: how big a deal was it to beat a team who had won 35 straight regular season games? It was a big deal and was 1 of the best games that I have ever been a part of: the crowd was crazy and it was amazing to snap their winning streak. Nobody in that gym will ever forget that game.

Last year your 57.1 PPG allowed was #8 in the nation: what is the key to playing great defense? There is not 1 single key: we just follow the coaches’ plan and take pride in playing defense. If anything, we put more of an emphasis on defense when we are struggling offensively.

In the 2015 Pac-12 tourney Joseph Young scored 25 PTS including a long 3-PT shot with 1.1 seconds left in a 3-PT win by Oregon: did you think the shot was going in, and where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career? I did not think it was going in because he was so far away from the basket. It was a tough shot and is #1 in my book of the worst losses because we were so close to winning. We let a couple of games get away from us at the end of the regular season last year so we had a bit of a chip on our shoulder. We did not expect Oregon to be a problem for us but I tip my hat to Young for making a tough shot.

In the 2015 NCAA tourney you scored a team-high 15 PTS in a 6-PT loss to eventual champion Duke: did you get the sense at the time that they were good enough to win the title, and what did you learn from that game that you think can help you this year? I learned the importance of controlling my emotions. We were all excited to play on that stage in a huge arena under the bright lights and we made some mistakes.  We need to slow the game down and approach it like we do any other game. They were a good team with arguably 1 of the best college coaches ever in Coach K but I was not sure if they could go all the way.  If we had been tuned in earlier I think our game might have had a different outcome. My 15 PTS did not come until late in the game: I did not have enough maturity that night but it will be 1 of the biggest things for me this year.

Your non-conference schedule includes games against San Diego State/Texas Tech/Wichita State/Duke: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? They will all be big in their own way, but the game I am most anxious about is Duke because of the bad taste in my mouth. It will be at Madison Square Garden with a big crowd. We lost at San Diego State last November by 4 PTS, so to have them come to our house will be great, and we also know that Wichita State will be coming for us.

For people who have never attended the big in-state rivalry in person, how intense are your games against BYU? It is very intense: you get crazy text messages from fans/students. It is a beautiful atmosphere and we will probably have a sellout crowd this year. The entire state takes pride in the game.

You return 4 starters from last year: how crucial is all of that experience going to be to your team’s success? It will be very crucial: even some of our bench players who have been here a while will help our approach for every game. Now that we have had a taste of getting to the Sweet 16 and we know what it takes to get there, the other seniors and I are itching to get back there because it is our last go-round.

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? I do not have any expectations but our goal is to be relentless. I want to be 1 of the best players in the country and I want people around the nation to want to model themselves on our program due to our defense and closeness. We want to play with so much heart and I want to be a leader.